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Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Even the Tizzards don't know which superstar will come out on top

Thistlecrack and Cue Card will take each other on in the King George
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Racing fans excitedly trying to solve the puzzle that is gripping the sport over whether Cue Card or Thistlecrack will come out on top in the 32Red King George VI Chase cannot expect much help from those closest to Colin Tizzard's superstars.

No-one knows the pair as well as assistant trainer Joe Tizzard and even he confesses he cannot pick the winner of Kempton's Boxing Day showdown between the stablemates. 

Bookmakers are struggling to separate the pair with Cue Card, last year's King George winner, a top-priced 11-8 on Tuesday, and Thistlecrack, who made his chasing debut less than two months ago, available at 6-4.

Tizzard knows the pair inside out, partnered both in his former life as a jockey and still takes a turn riding them in their work and schooling. But he still cannot reach a verdict and if he were a bookmaker you get the sense it would be even-money each the two with any price you like the remaining five.

He said: "I wouldn't like to say which horse is going to win. I genuinely can't split them. They'll finish first and second but it really could be either way. I'd take a dead heat. It would take a lot to rock either of them and it's not the strongest renewal. I just can't see anything troubling them."

Asked if he was still riding which horse he would choose, he said: "I honestly don't know. It would be the the sort of decision I'd keep going back to dad with and asking him to almost make it for me. There's pros about both of them and there's not too many cons with either of them.

"Cue Card's been there and done it, he was every bit as good as he was last year at Haydock and he's in beautiful form going into it. He's beaten the best.

"But we've never got to the bottom of Thistlecrack. We don't know just how good he is. He's never taken on a horse of Cue Card's ability, not even over hurdles. He hasn't come off the bridle in the last two seasons and how good he is we just don't really know yet. I guess we'll find out on Boxing Day."

The King George may be run at Kempton but it is a race being made at Colin Tizzard's yard in Dorset, where Christmas anticipation has been gazumped by Boxing Day fever as the finishing touches are put to the pair whose boxes are separated by Hennessy Gold Cup winner Native River.

Without another rival shorter than 10-1, it is perhaps unsurprising that the team at Venn Farm are reaching Scrooge-like levels of wishing Christmas away. The work riders of the two horses are already attempting to recruit fence-sitting colleagues into the fan club of their morning mount as the yard slowly divides into two camps gently, and playfully, at war, with Hamir Singh leading the Cue Card contingent and stable conditional Paul O'Brien Thistlecrack's self-appointed chief cheerleader.

All the while the two exceptional equines at the centre of it all continue their preparation - but apart as they never work together.

"The two of them did nice pieces of work this morning and we'll just keep them ticking over now as they're both in cracking form," Tizzard added on Tuesday. "We couldn't be happier with either of them."

He was also keen to deflect any credit for helping to create arguably the most intriguing clash of the season onto the horses' owners. He said: "These two are serious horses and it boils down to the owners' decisions, but we're fully supporting them and we're more than comfortable with the two of them racing against each other.

"We're spoiled with horses at the moment. We've got competitive Saturday horses every weekend and these two are at the very top of that. It's a dream come true. They bring their own pressure with them, but it's a lovely pressure to have."

They bring their own pressure with them, but it's a lovely pressure to have
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